Autism Diagnosis - Where do I start?

For parents the prospect of an autism diagnosis can be very scary. Many parents report that they don't want to put a label on their child of two or three years old. They feel that it may harm their child's prospects down the track to have a diagnosis of autism.

It is important to remember that autism is a complex condition but one that can be significantly improved with the right therapy. If your child does not have an accurate diagnosis but is battling with this condition, they may not end up accessing the best, most specialised intervention programs and therefore they may not reach their full potential.

Intervention for autism is extremely costly and intensive. There is currently a fair amount of funding available for autism therapy but without a diagnosis of autism your child will not be eligible to access this funding.

Getting an autism diagnosis

If you have concerns about your child's development your first step should be to see your Paediatrician. Based on their observations of your child and your reports of what has been going on at home, they will make a decision whether to refer your child for an autism assessment.

Remember that your paediatrician only sees your child for half an hour at most and your child may well be on their best behaviour. You will also have a short time to explain what has been going on at home. It is therefore a good idea to start making notes about any incidences that have happened at home that have concerned you. By going in with a written copy of all of your concerns you are less likely to forget to mention something important.

If your paediatrician feels that your child may meet the criteria for an autism diagnosis they will refer your child for a Speech Pathology assessment and a Psychological assessment.

The speech therapist will assess your child's communication skills including language and non verbal communication.

The psychologist will assess your child using the Diagnosistic and Statistical Manual V sometinmes called the DSM(V). This is a manual containing psychological conditions and the criteria for a diagnosis of such conditions.

Your Paediatrician will receive reports from both of these assessments and based on these reports and their own observations will determine whether your child should receive a diagnosis of autism.

The new diagnostic criteria in the DSM(V) change the way autism is categorised. There are no longer separate conditions such as Asperger's syndrome. Click here to better understand what your child's autism diagnosis means 

My child has a diagnosis of autism, what should I do next?

Even if you were expecting your child to receive an autism diagnosis, the reality can be devastating. Many parents report feeling totally lost and unsure where to start to help their child.

The sooner you get some therapy for your child and support for yourself things will begin to feel more managable, so start looking into therapy options as soon as you feel able. There may be long waiting lists so the sooner you get onto these waiting lists the better. You could even start contacting therapists while you are waiting for the speech pathology and psychological assessments. If you decide to do so just tell them that you are in the process of being assessed.

Contacting your local autism organisation is a good start and they may be able to put you in contact with local parent support groups and therapists that specialise in working with children with autism.

To find out about JumpStart- holistic, home-based autism therapy click here 

To find out about Speech Therapy for autism click here 

To find out about Occupational Therapy for autism click here 

To return from autism diagnosis to What is autism, click here

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